Uncle Sam wants you … to start saving your money for your children’s college years, that is.

The U.S. Congress declared September “National College Savings Month” to boost family awareness of the “why’s and how-to’s” of starting to save as early as possible. There’s no easier way than letting your commissary savings add to your investment plan.

“Commissaries sell at cost and provide 30 percent or more savings to authorized shoppers,” said Patrick Nixon, Defense Commissary Agency director and chief executive officer. “For a family of four, that amounts to about $3,000 annually. Why not put some of that savings toward your children’s education?”

If you treasure spending your savings on other things, such as vacations or even a new car, there’s another way the commissary can help with college tuition.

Each year, about 500 youths around the world win $1,500 scholarships in the Scholarships for Military Children program.

Children of Active-Duty and retired military, Reserve and National Guard members compete for the scholarships. Applications for the fall 2008 school year should be available Nov. 1, either at your commissary or via the Web site www.militaryscholar.org.

Whether you’re considering loan programs, college savings accounts with tax breaks, prepaid tuition plans, or shopper loyalty reward programs such as Upromise, a good site containing helpful information on college financial aid is “FinAid!” at www.finaid.org.

It’s never too late to start saving for your children’s future,” Nixon said. “Let your commissary savings play a part in making their dreams come true.”

The Defense Commissary Agency operates a worldwide chain of commissaries providing groceries to military personnel, retirees and their families in a safe and secure shopping environment.